Online Freelance Writer – Part 1
Making a Living as an Online Freelance Writer
I will begin by saying that it is possible to earn more than $100,000 a year as a
freelance writer. I’ve done it, and you can too.
Besides a little bit of knowledge about writing, you will also need to be financially
savvy and be willing to make a commitment to keeping your books in order.
Another part of being an Internet freelancer is being realistic in your expectations
of what kind of money you’ll make at first. You won’t make the big bucks right
away, but the same is true for most professions in life. Remember, too, that
building a clientele and a reputation as a writer will also take time.
Of course, you won’t make millions as an online freelance writer, but if earning a
comfortable living—say, $85,000–$100,000 a year—sounds good to you, then
you’ll definitely want to keep reading this guide. All you really need to succeed is
a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a working knowledge of the Internet freelancing
Chapter 1: An Introduction to Online Freelance Writing
1. What Does it Take to Be a Freelance Writer?
Many offline writers joke about not being paid often enough, and this is often the
case. What any online writer will tell you, however, is that when you work
through a major online outsourcing auction site (like elance.com or guru.com),
you’re being watched over by administrators who know your payment agreements.
This means that writing online actually makes it easier to track down those late or
non-paying clients than writing offline. In addition, late- or non-payers are often
kicked off these sites, lowering your chances of being taken advantage of by them.
This is similar to eBay, only you’re dealing with writing services, not physical
Of course, freelance writers do not receive regular paychecks. Clients often use
the same excuses for paying late that writers use for missing deadlines. That’s why
it’s important to know a little about the math involved in freelance writing before
For example, some problems many new writers run into are taking on jobs that
don’t pay enough to cover their costs, underestimating the amount of time it will
take to complete a job, and taking on too many jobs at once. Ignoring important
mathematical facts like these can lead to financial problems and sleepless nights
spent working to meet a deadline. One situation you do not want to find yourself
in is one where you are constantly advancing money from new clients for work to
be done later. To be a successful freelance writer you can’t ignore the math!
In addition, a successful freelance writer must be able to keep a schedule. You
have to be able to manage your time between promoting your business and actually
writing. You also need to be able to determine how many hours a specific project
will take to complete. If you do not have these organizational skills, you probably
won’t make it as a freelance writer. Once you fall into a pattern of missing your
deadlines it’s difficult to get back on track.
There are many different online calendars you can use to keep track of your
deadlines and projects. One good one is Essential PIM PRO, which is a desktop
program that lets you can drag and drop projects from day to day. Some other
good calendars include Google Calendar, Calendars.net, and Contact Office.
A good freelance writer has to be able to stand up for themselves. Freelance
writing on the Internet is a little different from offline writing. Most clients you’ll
find on major outsourcing sites like elance.com and guru.com are only interested in
getting the most they can from you for the lowest price without advancing you any
Most clients don’t like to advance you money for a project because it’s cheaper for
them if you finance the entire project for them while your payment remains in their
bank account, where it will accumulate interest for them. The next step for them is
usually to require several drafts from you in return for payment. It’s best for you
to require at least 25% of your payment up front from all of you clients. I
recommend going as high as 50%.
Another thing to watch out for are clients that will threaten you with bad feedback
to intimidate you into not collecting the rest of your payment. If this happens to
you, don’t hesitate to file a complaint with the site administrators and customer
service departments. Situations like this don’t happen often, but it’s best to be
aware of the possibility, much as you would be on eBay.
These are just a few examples of things new freelancers need to watch out for. The
key to being successful is to not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. In other
words, don’t let any client get the impression that you’re working for their
approval or they will label you as a pushover—and treat you like one!
A good freelance writer also needs to have thick skin. This means you need to be a
good judge of character. Don’t hesitate to say no to a client you think is
suspicious. In general, you’ll have a positive experience with three out of every
four clients you work for. There’s always that one, though, who has one of four
problems that will make your job more difficult:
The Obsessive-Compulsive—this client will ask you for endless drafts
because they are never quite satisfied with what they get.
The Codependent—this type of client will become overly friendly with you
and act personally insulted by anything that contradicts their view of you as
―friends‖ instead of business acquaintances.
The Objectifying Client—this client sees you as more of a word processor
than a human being, and will often set unattainable deadlines.
The Addictive Personality—multi-level marketing and similar occupations
can breed addictive personalities, who will look for ways to self-medicate in
order to handle the stress. These types of clients can be very unreliable in
terms of payment and will often change their minds many times.
There are also clients on the Internet who will try to use insults or criticism to
intimidate you into doing extra work or leaving them better feedback. In addition,
many clients are not writers themselves and don’t have realistic expectations as to
how long a project should take. There are also newcomers who don’t understand
how long a particular project should take or who commission projects and then
don’t pay. Again, the same kinds of things happen on eBay, the only difference is
that online freelance writing is much more profitable once you get the hang of it!
There isn’t much you can do about the kinds of problems mentioned above except
learn to trust your intuition when it comes to deciding who to work for online.
Naturally, some people are better at this than others.
A common misconception among online freelance writers is the idea that they will
be selling high quality products online. This is usually not the case—don’t try to
be Shakespeare! Most Internet clients are looking for cheap writing targeted
towards people with less education than you who probably don’t even know what
great writing is. The majority of Americans read at a fourth grade level, so if
you’re looking for a Pulitzer Prize, Internet writing is probably not for you.
If you really are a writer of Shakespearean talent, your best bet is to find an offline
agency that will be able to place you in the right job for the right price. Many
―great‖ writers who try to break into the world of online writing will bid on jobs at
$1 a word, which is a far cry from the actual going rate of about three to five cents.
A fancy resume will not necessarily earn you money on the Internet; clients are
after quantity, not quality.
As a freelance writer, you should also work on your typing speed. Most clients are
more interested in quantity rather than quality. It’s important to be able to write
and type quickly—there isn’t much room for perfectionism. You can work on
your typing speed on sites like The Typing Tutor, TypingTutor.net, and
A freelance writer also needs to have a strong entrepreneurial drive. This means
you must like what you do (freelance writing is unpredictable), and you must be
motivated to make money. If you’re someone who seeks frequent praise or job
security then you need to start working on your entrepreneurial drive. If you need
to work on your entrepreneurial spirit, I recommend taking this free motivational e10
course. This will increase your entrepreneurial drive, as well as motivate you to
If you already have a strong entrepreneurial drive then you are good at multitasking.
You also learn from your mistakes and don’t get easily overwhelmed by
situations other people might not be able to handle. To you, chaos is an
opportunity to make more money, not a reason to have a nervous breakdown.
Where other people see problems, you see only opportunities.
It’s also important that every freelance writer have a system. The system that
works best for you will be one that works with your talents, what you have to offer
a client, and what is in demand on the Internet. You need to do a little research to
find out what your market is looking for—don’t assume that what you have to
offer as a writer will be salable on the Internet.
Some writers like to specialize in a particular field. I wouldn’t recommend this for
online writing since the market is so volatile. For example, ebooks used to be the
hot commodity, but today it’s blogs. The product market on the Internet changes
quickly and you need to be able to adapt. It’s not your specific talent that will
make you a success online, it’s how much writing you can deliver to your client for
the lowest price.
By now you’re probably wondering how it’s possible to make tons of money in
such an unpredictable and low priced market place. I’ll tell you.
The first step is to keep it simple. To become a self-sufficient online freelance
writer, you need to create a system of getting clients in and out as fast as possible.
The best way to do this is to join one outsourcing auction site (like Elance or
Guru). A great feature of these sites is that all of your transactions and accounting
are handled for you in your account history. You’ll also have records of which
clients you pitched to and why you were accepted or turned down for the job.
Also, all your customers are in one place, including their emails and work history.
This means you have virtually no bookkeeping to worry about and that it’s much
easier for you to stay organized.
Your second step is to be consistent but fast. Hold all your writing to a single
standard that your clients will come to recognize and look for. Process books and
articles as fast as you can. These practices will keep your customers coming back
again and again.
The third step is to consistently raise your prices little by little over time. Don’t
give return customers discounts. Be prepared to ask them for more money if they
ask you for a second draft. This is the only way to make money in such an under
priced writing market designed to work in favor of the buyers.